Last week, I rented "Jimmy Bruno: No Nonsense Jazz Guitar" from Netflix. It's meant to give the beginning/intermediate jazz guitarist an easy way to get started and advance quickly, so most of it wasn't new to me. I didn't mind, because he's got that New York/Italian accent that makes it seem like I'm getting lessons from Joe Pesci: "Down, up, down, up, down, DOWN. Dat's da spot ya gotta hit, right dere. Do it again."
I did pick up two useful concepts from the video: picking technique and chord playing. I'll save the picking for another day.
Jimmy's approach to playing chords is so simple, yet allows for so many possibilities, it's what I should have been doing all along. Every 7th chord has four notes and can be played on four strings. When using a closed group of strings (top four, middle four, bottom four), there are four possible inversions, as follows: 1 5 7 3, 3 7 1 5, 5 1 3 7, 7 3 5 1. For any different type of 7th chord, just alter those notes along their own strings.
In addition to the above string combinations, Jimmy also uses strings 1 2 3 5 and 2 3 4 6. To derive these positions, take any middle four fingering, move the second-lowest note up an octave to the first string to get a fingering for 1 2 3 5. Then move the same voicing to strings 2 3 4 6. Each of these string groups have their own fingerings for the four inversions.
So for any given 7th chord, we have four possible inversions using five possible sets of strings: twenty different fingerings! It's best to keep in mind how the chords relate to each other. Jimmy knows all twenty fingerings for dominant 7ths the best, then raises the b7 to get maj7 or lowers the 3 for m7.
Throwing in alterations is easy too. For a 9th chord, just exchange the root for the appropriate 9 on the same string. The 5 can be moved to 4, #4/b5, #5, or 6. The possibilities here are endless but hard to memorize. I'll stick with plain old 7ths for now and add 9ths when I'm ready. I just spent an entire weekend memorizing as many as I could.
"Dere's a technical term for ya. Do you know your 'dik-a-di-dahs'?" I do.